Cervical spondylosis is a form of arthritis that affects the neck. It is caused by degeneration of the cervical spine or the bones in the neck. It is more common in elderly people. Almost 80 percent of all people above 60 suffer from mild to severe cervical spondylosis. Pain and stiffness in the neck are the common symptoms of cervical spondylosis.
Although this chronic condition cannot be reversed, with proper treatment and exercises, the progression of the arthritis of the neck can be arrested.
What Causes Cervical Spondylosis?
Spinal Disk Degeneration
Just as the other joints of the body, even the bones and cartilages of the neck are subject to wear and tear with age. Loss of water content in the disks of the cervical spine is the major cause of degeneration of the disk. The disks present between the vertebrae of the spine acts as cushions between the two adjacent bones, allowing easy movement of the neck.
The high water content of the disk keeps it functional. However, with age, the disks start to lose water. They lose significant amount of water by the time a person reaches middle age. The dehydrated disk weakens and shrinks. Loss of the spinal disks causes the vertebrae in the cervical spine to rub against each other, triggering wear and tear of the bones.
Formation of Bone Spurs
The cervical spine responds to the degeneration of the spinal disks and cartilages by producing new bones in the neck bone joints to support the cervical spine. These extra bones, known as bone spurs, may compress the nerves passing through the area, triggering neck pain.
Calcification of Ligaments
Aging induces calcification of ligaments. Calcification of ligaments of the cervical spine stiffens the ligaments. By reducing the flexibility of the neck, it makes neck movement painful.
Risks of Developing Cervical Spondylosis
Although aging increases the risk of developing cervical spondylosis, certain factors may accelerate the process. It is more likely to occur in people engaged in occupations that require them to exert excess pressure on the neck. Works involving repeated movement of the neck such as twisting, bending and lifting heavy loads accelerates degeneration of the spinal disks and cartilages of the neck.
Injury to the neck may cause herniated disk, leading to cervical spondylosis. Genetics may play a role in increasing the risk of developing cervical spondylosis. Cervical spondylosis patients usually have a family history of arthritis of the neck. Anxiety and depression may make you vulnerable to cervical spondylosis. Smoking is also associated with pain and stiffness of the neck.
Symptoms of Cervical Spondylosis
Stiffness of the neck and neck pain that tend to aggravate with neck movement are the most common symptoms of cervical spondylosis. In addition, you may experience weakness or numbness in the hands. It may cause headache. In some cases, it may cause loss of balance or difficulty in walking.
These symptoms of cervical spondylosis can be alleviated with pain relief medications, physical therapy and other non-surgical procedures. Surgery is occasionally recommended to reduce pressure from the spinal cord.